Friday, December 31, 2010

A Friday Five for the New Year

I'm hosting the Friday Five today over at Rev Gal Blog Pals. I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions, but it does seem a good time for some reflection and planning. For the last few days I keep thinking of Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. Among other things, that seems to say that reflection is in order if we want to learn and grow.

For some of us, this has been an incredibly difficult year; for others it has been a year of many joys. For all of us, there have been challenges and questions and there have been blessings and--maybe even an answer or two! As we say our goodbyes to 2010 and look towards 2011, share with us five blessings from 2010 along with five hopes or dreams for 2011.

1. All of us were relatively healthy in 2010. Since I live with two people who have daily struggles with chronic disease, this is a blessing! I hope and pray for continued blessings of health for my family. Boring answer, but the first one that comes to mind!

2. I am blessed to have my daughter's family nearby. When I married, it wasn't long before I moved to the opposite coast, and then it was moving hither and yon for a long time. We never lived near our families--I know, I know--this can be a blessing. But in our case, there was a void. I was sad that our children never knew what an extended family could be like, because we saw family very seldom. It is a great joy to be able to drop in for coffee, to see our beautiful granddaughter, Trinity, on a regular basis, to know our son-in-law. It has been a difficult year for them financially and we all are unsure what our futures hold when it comes to employment, ministry, etc. but whatever comes, I hope it comes in such a way that we don't live far apart!

3. I finally started writing in earnest. Not just talking about it, actually doing it. The bad part is that I have been unable to focus much on it, especially lately. So I hope to do better about taking this endeavor seriously in 2011.

4. I was blessed to be employed. So many people in our area are really struggling financially. I know what a good thing it has been to work, to have a place to go, to contribute something worthwhile, to meet people I would not have met otherwise. My deep longing is clearer direction about whether I should continue to hope and look for ministry opportunities--or whether I should just seek to be content as I am. This has been a deep struggle for me this past year, and I want to have a right attitude about it all.

5. I am deeply grateful for continued blessings that, once upon a time, were doubtful. These are many, but a few are: vision, my husband and family, a house, friends, thoughts, songs, dreams. For the New Year I want to be more mindful of these things, to make each day, each moment, count. I have so much...thanks be to God!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Prison Christmas 2010

I've written before about our prison Christmas services. If you are interested, just click on the prison link below and you can see more about visits there.

This year, Father Joe was there, as usual, to do the Catholic Mass. I sat in the back to listen, as I usually do, to some of the Catholic service. He has a wonderful voice and it was enjoyable listening to the scriptures from Isaiah. I was cheered by the enthusiasm of one of the inmates who sat near the front and gave the usual responses during the liturgy with great enthusasm. His joy might have surprised some of my Evangelical bretheren who assume that memorized responses are necessarily devoid of feeling. Sometimes, no doubut--but not always. At one point Father Joe told the assembled inmates, "I keep coming here every year because it is the highlight of my Christmas." Father Joe is 71 and tends to a very large parish not far away. He looked tired.

The Christmas decor at the prison chapel was relatively tasteful this year. (Such is not always the case--some who have read here before may recall my writing about how one year the drum kit on the platform was festooned with flashing strings of lights.) Men arrived dressed in the usual ugly greenish brown t shirts, some in grey sweatshirts, drab green baggy pants, green coats with the initials of the prison stenciled on the back. No "gay apparel" here.

Some sport long beards and long stringy hair. Some have neat cornrows in their hair. There is the young-looking, smiling black man who told me recently he will be getting out soon. I was surprised to hear he has children. He seems too young for that. He'll be in a halfway house for six months instead of going home. He's grateful for that because he is afraid to "lose focus and slip back." There is a stooped old man, bald, wrinkled, and watched out for by many of the others. I don't know why he's here but I think he's been "inside" for a long time. He has a gentle manner and handshake. Every time I see him I wonder if there is anyone left who hopes for him to come home. There is the skillful guitar player, the singer, the smiling Hispanic guy. Some seem somber but many are smiling broadly and the handshakes and thanks for "sharing your Christmas Day here with us," are real.

Ken preached a sermon that included the story of the man and the birds. The late Paul Harvey didn't know who wrote it, but he shared it every year at Christmas. Here it is:

The Man and the Birds

The man to whom I'm going to introduce you was not a Scrooge. He was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family, upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn't believe all that incarnation stuff which the churches proclaim at Christmas Time. It just didn't make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn't swallow the Jesus Story, about God coming to Earth as a man. "I'm truly sorry to distress you," he told his wife, "but I'm not going with you to church this Christmas Eve." He said he'd feel like a hypocrite. That he'd much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them.
And so he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper.

Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound...then another, and then another. Sort of a thump or a thud...At first he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against his living room window, but when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the snow. They'd been caught in the storm and, in a desperate search for shelter, had tried to fly through his large landscape window.

Well, he couldn't let the poor creatures lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter, if he could direct the birds to it. Quickly he put on a coat, galoshes, tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light, but the birds did not come in.

He figured food would entice them in. So he hurried back to the house, fetched bread crumbs, sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail to the yellow-lighted, wide open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs, and continued to flap around helplessly in the snow.

He tried catching them. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around them waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction--except into the warm, lighted barn.

And then, he realized that they were afraid of him.

"To them," he reasoned, "I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how?"

Any move he made tended to frighten them, confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him. "If only I could be a bird," he thought to himself, "and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to the safe, the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see, and hear and understand."

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind. And he stood there listening to the bells -- listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. And he sank to his knees in the snow.

The choir sang a medley of Christmas songs and I led the men in a couple more carols. Nothing extraordinary this year, but I found myself wondering why it was that for me, like Father Joe, going to prison is a highlight of Christmas.

I think I finally understand why. There are no crazy schedules to keep, no shopping, no gift giving or receiving, no commercials, no Santa, not much of anything except a rather dingy chapel, Christmas songs, scripture--and the "least of these." For many inmates there is no reason to celebrate and they spend the day in bed. The prison chapel, however, is joyful, peaceful, and bright in an unhappy, negative and dark place. It is Christmas, stripped bare of the trappings and exposed in all its stark, spare, difficult, grace-filled wonder. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas 2010

This year I was acutely aware of Christmas past. I remembered good and bad childhood holidays, the year Ken was in the hospital, the year we had to move (in a show storm) right before Christmas, the year we took the kids to an almost empty hotel (all those Christmas decorations just for us). I missed my mother and my sister and my brother-in-law Larry, and others. I thought of many loved ones who are no longer on this earth. I guess it's a sign I'm getting old.

I am very grateful this year that we had both our children with us. We don't get to see Josh much, and we all wish that when we do see him it was for a longer time--still we weren't sure he was going to be able to make it at all and he did. We had fun.

The snow is deep this year, and it was almost story-like to arrive at Kris and Daryl's little farm in the country (looking like a Christmas card!), nice to have Trinity welcome us joyfully, "Merry Christmas everyone! Hurry, come in!"

Trinity, the Greeter of the DayKris and Me With Breads

The warm kitchen was inviting, the table set with Christmas red and white. We enjoyed three kinds of special bread, and sipped our coffee as Trinity and Kris distributed gifts. Trinity made gift giving and receiving all the more delightful--she was so sweet, thanking us all for her presents, and happily telling us what she bought us before we could open the package. Later we had brunch and then Ken and I dashed off to prison as Josh and Trinity went out to make snow angels.


Today Ken and Kevin and Kris and Trinity and I went to see "Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (one of the Narnia films--by far they best). I got the Senior Citizen discount. Not sure how to feel about that. Now I'm looking forward to a week off.

I am acutely,sometimes uncomfortably aware, how quickly things can change. I wonder what will happen this year. Kevin's kidneys are not functioning well (yet another complication of diabetes combined with other things) and so he's going to see a specialist in a couple of weeks. We all know, however, that a long and healthy life is not in his future. I know he's a little scared. It is a matter of when and what...but today he said, "It sure has been a delightful couple of days hasn't it?" And yes, it has.

I am thankful for a year when many of those I love most were nearby. I know it will not always be so.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Blogging Through 2010

This was interesting last year, so decided to do it again. The idea is to go back through 2010 and post the first sentence that I blogged each month. I eliminated the Friday Fives, and the Finding Little Big Foot Chapters, and here is what I got:

January: I've been looking at a few pictures from Haiti this morning, and I listened to a NPR report from a woman working there with World Vision.

February: Thirty nine years ago today, I walked down the aisle at the Rosewood Wedding Chapel in Burbank, California.

March: Every Tuesday I drive to the prison where my husband, Ken, is chaplain.

April: I suspect Fred Phelps is in for a big shock one of these days...

May: The 59th Annual National Day of Prayer is today.

June: Last weekend we were reenacting at the season's first "Rendezvous" camp, and Trinity came along.

July: If you look in my sidebar you will see 17 posts under the heading "Egalitarian Marriage" and 33 under "The Gender Debate."

August: Last night I watched the National Geographic channel's decomentary Witness: Katrina.

September: The kitchen/fellowship area of our church [set for "dinner with the carnys"] smelled wonderful last night.

October: October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

November: Yesterday I went shopping (and I'm not a person who loves to shop).

December: On the night presbyters laid their hands on my shoulders and prayed, the night I was "officially" a minister, something happened.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Past Friday Five

For today's Friday Five over at RevGalBlogPals, Jan asks us to share five Christmas memories. I have been remembering many things, and I'd love to share all happy memories, but (let's face it) sometimes Christmas can be difficult. So my memories are a mix, just like this time of year often is. These are the first five memories that came to mind.

1. Our family lived in Los Angeles, CA and the relatives lived in a small Texas town. We sometimes travelled there for Christmas. Money was never abundant, so it wasn't often that this happened. It was always a very exciting time for us to make the trip, and the arrival at our grandfather's lovely red brick home was so exciting--especially if we actually got snow. It was a big, warm, loving family with lots of aunts and uncles and cousins, and on Christmas Eve everyone gathered together at the big house in town. One year my cousin, Grady, and I went out to some woods somewhere or other and gathered a bunch of mistletoe. We had lots of fun plotting and giggling and putting it up in various doorways and interesting spots, but we thought we were being so smart and sneaky to hang a sprig of it on the ceiling above Papa's recliner. Of course, when our grandfather arrived home he acted very surprised and confused as to why everyone was kissing him. I, being about 8 or 9, really thought we had fooled him. My happiest Christmas memories are of various doings with the family in Texas.

2. My father, who had always been a very healthy and vibrant person, was in a coma from an aneurysm. It was Christmas time. My sister, Paulette, arrived from Indiana. I arrived from Wisconsin. Darlaine, our eldest sis, already lived in California, and it had been a long time since the three of us had been together. It was good, in a strange way, to be there together. It was a long, difficult week, first at a small hospital in Hemet and later at a large one in La Jolla. The hospital was decked out for the season (and La Jolla is a wealthy area so it was all beautiful). Christmas carols were playing, the rest of the family were elsewhere, and Paulette and I were mostly struggling to hold back tears. We left the ICU area and went for a walk around the hospital's main floor and lobby. On the walls were oil paintings of many wealthy benefactors of Scripp's Medical Center. We looked at each one and tried to imagine what it was like to be them. We got to giggling nearly hysterically, and Paulette made some very rude comments about the various people depicted on the walls. Such a silly thing, but a very vivid memory of finding something to laugh about, walking hand in hand at the hospital and waiting to hear if our dad was going to live or die. (He passed away on Dec. 20th.)

3. One Christmas when I was a child I was snooping for presents. I found a Betty Crocker bake set on my parents' closet shelf. Excited, because I'd been longing for one, I showed Paulette. She scoffed, saying, "That's just an empty box. Daddy has been gathering empty boxes to put stuff in to wrap. You can't tell by the box, silly." I was not convinced, so somehow she got me out of the closet and into the kitchen, and a few minutes later she showed up with the box, saying to our mother, "She thinks this is her present." She opened the lid, announcing, "See, nothing in there." Only thing was, she had emptied the entire box of its contents, little boxes of various mixes and tiny spoons, measuring cups and so on...but she had forgotten one thing. I can still see it, my sister standing there being a smarty and throwing off the lid and...oops! One red mixing bowl still in the box. Ha! She had already convinced me, but that mixing bowl had me wondering all the way up to Christmas.

4. Then there was the Christmas that my mom (a lovely person, but one with some serious spiritual/emotional/mental issues that often made our family life difficult if not outright bizarre) spent the entire season secluded in her room. I decorated the tree, wrapped the presents, decorated the house as best I could....not a happy time. She did come out for a short while to open presents. My husband-to-be (though I did not know it yet) was there. My mother, poor thing, was so anxious to return to her seclusion that she all but flung the presents at us in her hurry. Ken was trying hard to pretend not to notice that something was very strange. I was trying not to cry. My dad was seething with barely-contained frustration and fury. The evening ended with Ken leaving early, and me listening to an all-too familiar argument from my parents' room. I covered my head with my pillow and cried, knowing life as I knew it was disintegrating and wondering where God was. I was about to enter a pretty confused period of life when I wondered if anything I believed was true. Not a happy memory, but I can say that through it all I know (now) that God was at work. God's faithfulness transcends the frailty of humanity. I am very grateful for that!

5. The first year with Trinity was such fun...a laughing little baby who was entranced with the lights. And last year with little Trinity was so enjoyable. She was not quite three, and she had so much fun that it would have been impossible not to laugh and enjoy the day (not that it wasn't quite nice to be with each other!). She welcomed us at her front door with a flourish (she is quite dramatic) and escorted us to the tree. Having a little kid around, once again, at Christmas was so delightful. This year she is very excited to be in her first Christmas program ever! Praise God for children!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas Thoughts on a Cold Morning

The view outside is white. And more white. The temperature is hovering around zero degrees F. We do have hopes that it is going to warm up to the 20s today, but for now it feels good to be sipping coffee, still in my flannel pajamas, and contemplating a day off in which I'm going to do some baking.

It has been a strange kind of Christmas season. Not a bad one, all things considered. More about that in a future post --but just different.

Last year I think I was just enjoying the freedom that not being a pastor brought me during the holidays, but I realized this year just how much of my Christmas focus was formerly determined by things pastors do.

I have always thought of Christmas in two rather distinct ways. I mean, the shopping, cookies or other baking, even the pleasure of lights and snowy landscapes are not really connected to thoughts of Jesus Christ and his birth. That doesn't mean that can't be very enjoyable, but the other part of Christmas, the part where I spend time in contemplation of spiritual things is a different thing altogethe, and it seems difficult this year.

Other years it happened as part of preparing for the season. At church, the month before Christmas Day was devoted to themes related to Jesus' birth and the events around it. I always tried to make Advent services coordinated--liturgical church traditions are better at this than we Evangelical types--but I worked hard at making the music, scripture readings, other special things like a poem or worship dance or drama, blend with the sermon so that the whole service led us together in a particular direction.

A few years ago I wrote (with help from my daughter) a daily devotional booklet, "Christmas at the Oasis" which spanned the time from the beginning of Advent through the week after New Years. I posted those here as well. We had to be finished with the whole thing in plenty of time to get it to the printer and distributed for the first Sunday in Advent. It was a wonderful spiritual exercise. I don't know how meaningful it was for those in my congregation or others who received the booklet, but it was good for me to plan it, write it, and find the artwork that went with the devotion for the day!

I'm realizing that it is almost Christmas and I am missing the focus of time spent thinking, writing, planning and so on. I don't know what next year will bring, but I have decided I must be a lot more "on purpose" about planning my holidays to include some sort of spiritual discipline.

How about you? Is it a season of peace, joy, hope and love...or is it something else this year? Do you have any special habits or practices that help bring the important things into focus?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Please Pray With Me for "Questing Parson"

Some of you may know my long-time blogger friend and colleague, Questing Parson. His wife recently had surgery and last night she passed away from related issues. Here is Parson's trubute to her. Would you say a prayer for him today?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Jingle Bell Rock Friday Five

RevGalBlogPal friend, Mary Beth, posted the Friday Five today.

For today's Friday Five: What lifts you up when you are low or troubled? Who helps you remember that you are not alone, it's getting better all the time, etc.? Your five responses can be people you know, people you DON'T know, music, places, foods, scripture, surprises, something you do for someone else. It could be a pair of slippers. It could be a glass of water. Bonus: Do you like the song "Jingle Bell Rock?" If you do, who do you prefer to hear sing it? Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee, Mean Girls, Stephanie Smith, Chubby Checker, Billy Gilman, Brian Setzer, Hilary Duff, Thousand Foot Krutch (I am not making this up), oh, there are so many more! I am currently partial to my friend Marco.

Wow! Okay, I'll take the bonus first. I do like the song Jingle Bell Rock because it reminds me of my two sisters wearing bobby sox, black and white oxfords and poodle skirts with lots of crinoline petticoats beneath. And of course this means I like the Brenda Lee version. It's a dumb song, of course, so why have so many people sung it? Dumb but cherry. Maybe that's the secret.

On to the five things that lift me up when I'm down.

1. Rest. I have finally come to realize that sometimes I am down when I am just in serious need of some down time. So a cup of tea, a book, and SOLITUDE are a key. It isn't that those things make me cheery. They just make cheeriness possible!

2. Music. Nothing cheers me up like music. What type, how loud, etc. all depend on lots of variables, but music is a necessity in my life. Sometimes, it's true, music can make me sad, lonely, or too nostalgic for my own good. Especially since I'm still grieving some multiple losses, so if the goal is to cheer myself up, I need to choose carefully. In a few minutes I'm going to put my "Straight No Chaser" Christmas CD on. They are a great vocal group (thanks to son Josh for giving me the CD a coupld of Christmases back). I'll try to find a version of their song "Christmas Can Can" to post. It always makes me laugh. Especially when they get to the Dredel pat.....and screaming Christmas carols all the way...lalalalalalala....well I found it. Here you go.

3. People. One must not hole up (see number one) for too long. People, especially the positive ones, are good for lifting our spirits.

4. Counting my blessings. Sounds sappy, eh? But it is true. Sometimes I just need to stop and reflect and say thanks to God for the good things in my life.

5. Cooking. I don't know why cooking cheers me up, but it does. Nothing like making a big mess in the kitchen to get me in a better mood!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Happy Birthday to Josh

Thirty-three years ago today, I woke in the wee hours with some definite signs that labor was underway. This was baby number two, so I figured it wouldn't be long before we would welcome our new family member into the world. A while later I was at the hospital and nothing was happening. I paced. I paced some more. Once in a while something significant would begin, but then stop. Hours later, the dreaded Pitocin drip was started. More hours went on. Something was amiss, it seemed, but an x ray showed that the baby inside was not too large, so we waited.

Then things got exciting, but not in a good way. The fetal heart beat was too slow and there were signs that the little one who was on his way was stressed. I was prepped for a C-Section. The doctor was obviously concerned and things were a bit grim. He tried to gently warn me that all was likely not well.

Ken called our church's prayer chain, and before they could get things set for the C-section, Josh entered the world. Unlike his older sister, who entered the world squalling in protest, he only cried briefly. He did manage to send a healthy stream of urine onto the doctor, who laughed and said, "Well, we know his water works are functioning fine." I'm not sure what the doctor had expected, but he was clearly happy to see this healthy child. Josh was a beautiful newborn, with brown hair and the most intense blue eyes I had ever seen. When I held him those large eyes looked up at me. They weren't cloudy, as newborn eyes often are--they were clear and focused. He seemed to be gazing intently at us.

That is how I remember my baby boy most, a beautiful child who quietly watched the world with great intensity, often awake and usually watching the world closely.

He became a shy boy with a sweet disposition, the delight of all of us and the favorite person of his big sis, who was six years older. I can picture them, Josh doing his best to keep up. They were an interesting pair, those two, opposites in many ways (and that is still true). Josh was the cautious one, the saver, the neat kid. He works at night, so the morning person we all used to know has disappeared these days, but Dad and Sis and I all vividly recall how he often woke us up by singing church songs happily in the morning. His favorites were, "I'll Fly Away" and a Pentecostal standard I am sad to say doesn't get sung much anymore, "Not By Might."

He's not shy anymore. But he still cares about people, more than he sometimes wants anyone to know, and he still has a great voice.

Happy Birthday, Josh. I'm so glad you are in the world!

Friday, December 03, 2010

Survival Edition Friday Five

Katheryn shared today's F.F. over at RevGalBlogPals. (The Elf collage is my grandaughter, Trinity, some time back.)

Whether a RevGal or a Pal most of us in this cyber community have enhanced responsibilities during this time of year. We also have traditions - religious and secular - that mark the season for us in a more personal way. For this Friday Five please let us know five of the things that mark the season for you.

1. The thing I miss about not being the pastor of a church during this season is the Advent wreath. Growing up Southern Baptist, and then hopping over to the Assemblies of God. I never heard of Advent. The first time I saw one I was in my late 20s. My husband was invited to speak at a series of classes at a Lutheran Church in the Washington D.C. area. It was a lovely old church building, the sort that appealed to my aesthetic lil soul. I wandered around, admiring the stained glass, pipe organ, lovely carved pews--and suspended from the ceiling over the altar area was an enormous Advent wreath of evergreen boughs and holly and large white candles. It looked so unique, Christmasy--something I had seen in pictures of European churches. I love the symbolism of the Advent wreath, the candles, readings, etc.

2. Christmas it! Especially the glorious, soaring type. I LOVE Handel's "Messiah."

3. Light. The more the merrier.

4. Baking orange nut bread and Jule Kaga. The orange nut bread recipe comes from my mother, and is the most delicious nut bread imaginable. Find it over at The Owl's Kitchen. The other comes from my husband's Norwegian family. Both are musts. I so enjoy Christmas baking, especially if music is playing in the background. And, of course, it's nice to eat them as well.

5. Snow! Growing up in California where it might be 65 balmy degrees on Christmas Day, one thing I do like about Christmas in the upper Midwest is that most of the time we will have a beautiful, white Christmas. I do get very tired of snow by the time April rolls around, but I love it when the dusting of snow on everything is real snow.

And the bonus? Tell us one thing that does absolutely nothing for you.

Santa. I know, the St. Nick story is great. But Santa Claus? Not so much. Bah, humbug. (Except for when he is my sweetie.) Pics of that as soon as I can download them next week.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Tale of Two Women

On the night presbyters laid their hands on my shoulders and prayed, the night I was "officially" a minister, something happened. The incident has been playing in my head all day We were holding our district council at a downtown Milwaukee church. I was standing in a line to receive congratulations as people do on such occasions, and the only person near me that I knew was Val, a longtime friend. She and her husband had been our neighbors in "married couples housing" at Trinity. They had taken a pastorate in Wisconsin, like us, and she had just started so speak to me when two women approached.

The first was a small young Hispanic woman. She spoke very softly. "Are you...a preacher?"

"Yes." Smile.

"Really? Like...a minister?"


"I had no idea." The young woman was gazing at me like I was something amazing. She shook my hand, and repeated, "I had no idea. I had no idea."

Her English was heavily accented. She backed away, but she didn't really leave. She just kept watching me. I guess I have not mentioned that I was the only woman receiving any sort of ministerial credentials that night.

The second was a very large and very elderly African American woman. She was not quite "all there" and probably suffering from some sort of dementia. But this dear sister, mostly toothless, ran up to me and wrapped her arms around me and hugged the stuffing out of me. I can still see her face. Then she held me at arms length, and as tears rolled down her cheeks, kept loudly excalaiming, "OH, sister, God bless you!" Then she would shake her head as if she could not believe what was before her eyes. This happened about three times, and I was feeling a little trapped. It seemed she was going to continue to hug me, inspect me and "God bless" me all night. I had thanked her each time, and didn't know what to do. Thankfully, Val, who had stepped away for a moment, saw the problem and gently intervened by coming up to shake my hand. The elderly lady reluctantly stepped back, but she continued to say, "Oh, sister, God bless you" and smile at me till she was out of sight in the crowd.

During all this the other woman stood not far away. When she caught my eye, once again, she shook her head, almost looking bewildered. "Is something wrong?" I asked, growing concerned. She did not really answer, but tears filled her eyes as once more she said, "I had no idea." My husband came up about that time and she too disappeared into the crowd.

What was happening to those two very different women? I think I know. I think both of them had felt a stirring in their spirits to serve God in some sort of preaching ministry. One was old, and her mind, it seemed, was going, but she still knew enough to rejoice to see that a woman was among the group of newly licensed/ordained men. The other was very young, and I have often wondered about her. Why did she seem so stunned? What was happening in her mind and heart? I suspect her English was not good, and even if we had been able to take the time she might not have been able to share with me what was happening. Something tells me she remembers that night too.

Why I am remembering this today? Don't know, but can't stop thinking about it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

'Twas the Beginning of Advent

Today is the first of four Sundays leading to Christmas, the season known as Advent. Join the RevGalBlogPals tomorrow as we share a day-long online Advent retreat. Just click here
tomorrow morning to join us. Subsequent meditaions will be added throughout the day.

I'd like to share a poem be the Rev. J. Todd Jenkins, First Presbyterian Church, Fayettevile, Tennessee.
'Twas the Beginning of Advent

'Twas the beginning of Advent and all through the Church, Our hope was all dying--
we'd given up on the search.
It wasn't so much that Christ wasn't invited,
But after 2,000 plus years we were no longer excited.

Oh, we knew what was coming-- no doubt about that.
And that was the trouble-- it was all "old hat."
November brought the first of an unending series of pains
With carefully orchestrated advertising campaigns.

There were gadgets and dolls and all sorts of toys.
Enough to seduce even the most devout girls and boys.
Unfortunately, it seemed, no one was completely exempt
From this seasonal virus that did all of us tempt.

The priests and prophets and certainly the kings
Were all so consumed with the desire for "things!"
It was rare, if at all, that you'd hear of the reason
For the origin of this whole holy-day season.

A baby, it seems, once had been born
In the mid-east somewhere on that first holy-day morn.
But what does that mean for folks like us,
Who've lost ourselves in the hoopla and fuss?

Can we re-learn the art of wondering and waiting,
Of hoping and praying, and anticipating?
Can we let go of all the things and the stuff?
Can we open our hands and our hearts long enough?

Can we open our eyes and open our ears?
Can we find him again after all of these years?
Will this year be different from all the rest?
Will we be able to offer him all of our best?

So many questions, unanswered thus far,
As wisemen seeking the home of the star.
Where do we begin-- how do we start
To make for the child a place in our heart?

Perhaps we begin by letting go
Of our limits on hope, and of the stuff that we know.
Let go of the shopping, of the chaos and fuss,
Let go of the searching, let Christmas find us.

We open our hearts, our hands and our eyes,
To see the king coming in our own neighbors' cries.
We look without seeking what we think we've earned,
But rather we're looking for relationships spurned.

With him he brings wholeness and newness of life
For brother and sister, for husband and wife.
The Christ-child comes not by our skill,
But rather he comes by his own Father's will.

We can't make him come with parties and bright trees,
But only by getting down on our knees.
He'll come if we wait amidst our affliction,
Coming in spite of, not by our restriction.

His coming will happen-- of this there's no doubt.
The question is whether we'll be in or out.
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock."
Do you have the courage to peer through the lock?

A basket on your porch, a child in your reach.
A baby to love, to feed and to teach.
He'll grow in wisdom as God's only Son.
How far will we follow this radical one?

He'll lead us to challenge the way that things are.
He'll lead us to follow a single bright star.
But that will come later if we're still around.
The question for now: Is the child to be found?

Can we block out commercials, the hype and the malls?
Can we find solitude in our holy halls?
Can we keep alert, keep hope, stay awake?
Can we receive the child for ours and God's sake?

From on high with the caroling host as he sees us,
He yearns to read on our lips the prayer: Come Lord Jesus!
As Advent begins all these questions make plea.
The only true answer: We will see, we will see.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pie-ola Friday Five

Songbird shares a fun post-Thanksgiving Day Friday Five:

Please answer these five questions about pie:

1) Are pies an important part of a holiday meal?
We had pear, pecan, chocolate and pumpkin pies, and only seven people at the table (one of whom is only three). Absolutely essential at Thanksgiving and Christmas! So essential that yesterday Kris and I were discussing the merits of a pie crust made with shortening or oil with a crust made from lard. (Lard!) Lard really does make a better, lighter, flakier crust. Good thing we don't eat pie all the time!

2) Men prefer pie; women prefer cake. Discuss.
Ken (my spouse) and Kevin (my bro-in law who lives here) weighed in on this one. Ken prefers pie. Kevin prefers cake. (But that didn't stop him from having multiple helpings of pie yesterday. I like cake...but I don't know as I prefer it. Like comparing apples and oranges or coffee and tea. Hard to say. Well...maybe if I could only eat one for the rest of my life...cake.

3) Cherries--do they belong in a pie?
If it is a cherry pie.

4) Meringue--if you have to choose, is it best on lemon or chocolate?
I'm not a meringue lover, but lemon would be my choice. Our son, who didn't make it home for Thanksgiving this year, has already requested that his sis make one for Christmas, however. So I guess it's lemon meringue for Christmas this year.

5) In a chicken pie, what are the most compatible vegetables? Anything you don't like to find in a chicken pie?
I love chicken pie! Carrots, onions, peas, celery and corn if you want to use it up. I make one that isn't in a crust but is topped with biscuits. Yum! Turkey pie is good too, and beef pie. KFC's chicken pot pie is delicious on a cold day, but I probably don't want to know how many calories it contains. The crust is fabulous!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 You

This has been a good exercise for me! I am glad others joined me here and there along the way. I am thankful for friends old and new, cyber and IRL, and people in general! Thanks to those who still stop by The Owl's Song. Have a wonderful, joyful, peaceful day with family and friends. For those who are spending the day alone, may the presence of the Holy Spirit comfort you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 My House

The picture is of Kris and me, cooking Thanksgiving dinner in my kitchen when she was pregnant with Trinity.

I am not delighted with my house. It is a small ranch-style house. Every room in it is a bit too little, especially since we now share it with a wheelchair-bound relative and his two dogs.

I complain about the galley kitchen. The bathrooms are cramped. Our king size bed pretty much fills up the master bedroom.

I awoke this a.m. to a news story on PBS about families in Egypt. Things have not gone well there for "middle class" people under the current administration, much less the poor. We heard the story of one couple whose home was buldozed by the government with no warning. They were told to go to a local government office and fill out paperwork and they would be able to move into an apartment. Arriving there, they were told that no such paperwork existed. Along with some of their former neighbors, this couple has been living in a tent for over a year. Not a nice camping tent, either. A tent they put together from blankets from their bed. They are in view of an apartment building with many empty units. They are not allowed to move in. Paperwork.

Today I am feeling grateful for my little house.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 Scripture

Today I have spent some time writing an Advent devotional. More about that in a moment. After pondering Isaiah for a while, I am feeling thankful for the scriptures. How fortunate we are in America and other free countries to have easy access to the Bible. I don't even know how many Bibles are one place or another in my house, or how many versions I have easy access to...and no one threatening me because I have them. May God grant grace to those who long for knowledge and wisdom and must make do with a tiny scrap, or a page, or a chapter.

The devotional is for the Rev Gal Blog Pals. On Monday, November 29th, we will be sharing an all-day Virtual Advent Retreat, the third of its kind. You are welcome to join us as various scripture reading, reflections and prayers are shared in an online "retreat." See the photograph of women's feet in the sidebar to the right? Just click on the picture to visit the blog of the Rev Gal Blog Pals.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 Life

Periodically I check the local papers for obituaries. I don't love doing this--some people do! I do it so that Veritas Financial Services does not send mailings or otherwise do something inappropriate because we are unaware that someone has died.

Reading the obituaries is a bit sobering. There seem to be a lot of people in their 60s who are passing on. Far too many for my comfort. And then there is the occasional write up for someone in their 40s, 30s, or even younger. Those deaths are usually from cancer or are unexpected tragedies like car accidents.

After spending time going through a pile of papers today, I find myself feeling thankful to be alive. Not only alive, but alive and well! I am once again reminded how short life is and that one day there will be a black and white picture of me in the paper. What will folks remember? As I thank God for life, I am also seeking to make my time here count for something!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 An Education

I have to share a little story before I get to what I'm thankful for today.

The prison chapel is badly in need of some tender loving care. The roof needs replacing and the paint is peeling from the walls leading down to the back door. Last Tuesday it was chilly in the prison chapel basement. But, as is usual there, I was warmly greeted by several inmates. A stop in the visitor restroom revealed floors grimy from age and cracked and peeling paint on the wall. I know the State of Wisconsin has a badly strained budget. Even so, when I look around inside the razor wire fences, it seems the chapel is the last building to get attention.

In a little corner classroom I am greeted by one of the inmates who has attended our Bible study faithfully for about a year. He calls me "Chaplain" or sometimes "Mrs. Chaplain."

His mother has cancer, and he recently had hopes that the parole board would let him go home. Such was not the case, and he is trying hard to keep his spirits up. He came to prison as a young man, but now he is middle-aged and very concerned that his mother will die befoe he gets home. He asks me to pray for her, and to pray that he stays strong. I've mentioned this inmate before. He causes me concern because I can see two warring sides of him. He longs to be a good man, to encourage others, to do what is right. He has had a hard time in a new prison job because he is being taunted for not stealing. So far, he has held his head up and resisted. But he has a dark side too. Of course, everyone does, and inmates more particularly do, but in this man it is more evident, and the struggle he wages is clear. I have grown to care about him, and I hope he can see his mother once more. At the same time, I'll be concerned if I hear he's actually out on the streets. I'll call him W.

About halfway through our study W. suddenly sat up very straight, looked at me with wide-open eyes and said, with a voice full of excitement. "Mrs. Chaplain, I saw the most wonderful show on PBS the other night. Did you see it? It went all the way back to the days of Abraham Lincoln! Did you know that there was a big disagreement in this country about slaves? There was this man, I can't remember who he was...a Christian man with a lot of slaves...and he had a dream and he came and told the others that he had to get rid of his slaves right away, that God says it is wrong. The others argued and made fun of him, but he did it!" W.'s smile was wide and his eyes sparkled.

I was slowly absorbing the fact that he was telling me about a peice of history he knew nothing about. He went on, "There was a big, terrible war between...I think it was the west side of the country and the east side...?" An inmate sitting next to him said gently, "It was the north and the south." "Right!" exclaimed W. "Did you know that, Mrs. Chaplain? There was a big war and Abraham Lincoln said the slaves had to be freed. Do you know about that?"

"Yes. It was a long, terrible time. It was called 'the Civil War'."
"Right! That's it! The Civil War."
"And Abraham Lincoln was president."
"Yes! They said that on TV. And Lincoln was a great man. He said they had to set they slaves free!"
"Was Lincoln a Christian man?"
"I think so. Some people don't think so, but I do. Either way, I sure do believe he was the right man for the work that had to be done..."

We went back to our Bible study and soon concluded. A guard in a prison van drode me back to the gatehouse. I signed out, passed beyond the razor wire fences, and drove away. But my thoughts have been returning inside ever since.

What kind of life did my inmate friend live before he committed the crime that landed him in prison? How is it possible for an American Black man in his forties to not have heard of the Civil War (or as they say down south, "the War between the states")? If I hadn't watched his face and heard his tone I would not have believed it.

Over the 20 years I've been visiting the prison where my husband is a chaplain, I've heard and seen many things that have made me deeply sad. None struck me quite like this.

Today I am deeply, profoundly grateful for my education.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Expect the Unexpected Friday Five

I am thankful for my blogging friends over at Rev Gal Blog Pals. I've met some in person, and there are a bunch more I'd LOVE to meet. They are a terriffic bunch. Rev Gal Jan hosts the Friday Five today, and she says, "With the American holiday of Thanksgiving being less than a week away, I tried to think of some questions for Friday Five that could be connected to this, but in a new way. So here is my one try:
Name five things that were unexpected in your life that you are now grateful for."


1. My husband. Very unexpected, and the greatest blessing of my entire life.

2. My second child was planned and eagerly awaited by all. (And, unexpected or not, we are thankful for him.) The first, on the other hand, was not. It makes me smile to think of it now. We had been married three months when she was conceived. Don't ask me how I know. I do know, and you don't need to. :-) About a month later I started getting REALLY sick, and when I went to find out what was wrong with me...yep. Pregnant! I was shocked. We were scraping by as it was. How were we going to afford a baby? I cried. When I shared the news we just stared at each other. It took a while, but of course we adjusted and eventually were joyfully anticipating our baby's arrival. That pregnancy was MOST unexpected, but my lovely daughter was the result. What a joy she has been!

3. Living in Wisconsin. Where is Wisconsin? When I lived in California, the state of my birth, I would have been unable to tell you, except that it was somewhere in the north and middle of the country. Like most Americans, I didn't think there was anything here but cows and beer. I've now lived here for nearly 30 years (wow!) and have learned to love many things about this part of the country.

4. An unexpected blessing...TOTALLY unexpected was being called to ministry. It is a long story why that was such a surprise, but the short version is that I grew up Southern Baptist.

5. It was never the plan that my mother come live with us. Her three daughters, of which I am the youngest, did have a plan. Our plan, for many complicated reasons, did not happen. She ended up living here for about five years. It was very difficult. My mother and I always had a rather strange relationship. I wish I could say that one day we sat down and resolved all our issues. That did not happen, but I am very glad that in the end she did spend those years with us. Yes, they took a toll on my that wasn't always good. Still, I have many wonderful memories. I miss her. I'm glad I had her close by at the end.

The picture was taken on her 90th birthday. She lived two more years.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 CBE

Thanking God today for the ministry of Christians for Biblical Equality. They made a lifelong impact on the heart, mind and soul of one woman preacher. Yes, I mean me. Blessings to all of those hardworking and underpaid people!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Calling A Spade A Spade: Time To End TSA Theatre And Corporate Profiteering

Calling A Spade A Spade: Time To End TSA Theatre And Corporate Profiteering

Pretty disturbing, methiniks.

Thankfulness 2010 Friends

I am not a person who makes close friends easily. Lots of aquaintences, yes. But real friends are harder to come by. Sometimes it is surprising who your real friends turn out to be! Thankful today both for friends who have come and gone, and for friends who have come and stayed.

Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow.
Don't walk behind me, I may not lead.
Just walk beside me and be my friend.--
Albert Camus

Monday, November 15, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 Feeling Good

I am very thankful to only be sad once in a while instead of all the time. Today I am rejoicing in the fact that I feel whole. For a while that was not the case. I think there was just too much loss on too many fronts. It was hard to go easy on myself, even though I know all about "healthy grief" and how one must allow time to grieve losses of all sorts. Still not easy. But for several weeks now I have a general sense of well being, I'm feeling like ME again, and I'm ready for a challenge. We shall see what comes. Still praying about direction, but not stressing about it (too much).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 The Food Bank

Tonight is the last show of the "Sounds of Gospel." It has been great! Last night was especially good, just feeling like we were connecting, blending, singing beautifully together, moving the crowd--all the things one wishes for in a musical show. What I am thankful for, however, is the Food Bank that this wonderful show is raising money for. The Sheboygan County Food Bank will serve 14 food pantries throughout our county. Sadly, this is really important during this time of economic challenges and many folks out of work. The response has been gratifying, and the terriffic people of the area are being generous. I am thankful for a great area in which to live and work. And singing some of my favorite music isn't bad either!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rev Gals Getting Ready for Winter Friday Five

What is your favorite movie for watching when curled up under a wooly blanket?

One movie I can watch over and over is "White Knights." Love it...not sure why. You haven't seen it? It's a chick flick, I guess, but a good one with good dancing. It's old, but sort of timeless.

2. Likewise, what book?

Almost any book will do. "Wind in the Willows' comes to mind. I can read that children's book again and again. I really do love the classics, and I have a nice set on my bookshelf, so when I just want to read for comfort and not great insight, etc. I can read something from Mark Twain any time, and not feel I have to read the whole book if I don't want to. It's not as if I don't know how the stories end!

3. What foods do you tend to cook/eat when it gets cold?

Soup. I never make soup in warm weather, but as soon as it starts getting chilly I start making chicken soup, potato soup, split pea, stew...we eat LOTS of soup in the winter months.

4. What do you like to do if you get a "snow day" (or if you don't get snow days, what if you did)?

Listen to music. If Ken isn't home I can crank it. LOL Or sometimes a snow day is a good time to scrub the floor or clean out a closet.

5. Do you like winter sports or outdoor activities, or are you more likely to be inside playing a board game? Do you have a favorite (indoors or out)?

Inside for me, thanks. We love all kinds of games, though we don't play them as much as we did when the kids were still at home. Lots of favorites...hmmm...we love to play Mah Jong, and we have an antique set. I think there's a picture of it on this blog somewhere. We like card games, Clue, Scrabble, Perquacky. Yep, good thing since we live in Wisconsin.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 Veterans

"The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!” Eleanor Roosevelt

I once wore a tiny version of the globe and anchor above. I was engaged to a US Marine and he was far away. The ER quote above is a bit of a back-handed compliment, I admit, but everyone knows that when the job is difficult it will likely be the USMC who clears the way and makes it a little safer for their comrades in other branches of the military.

Today I am saying "Thank You" to not only my husband's fellow jar heads, but all of the men and women who have done the best they could do under almost unimaginable circumstances.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 A Home

Thousands of people remain homeless in Haiti and in Chile and Indonesia and many other places in the world. What a pleasure it was to come home to our little house after a trip south. It is not a large house, nor a particularly beautiful one, but it is warm, dry, has running water and a little kitchn and our bed, and books, and a stereo and closets of clothes. How rich we are!

Social Justice: Finding the Balance

Reposted from the website of the Church of the Foursquare Gospel. What do you think? Agree? Disagree? Some of both?

Some believers preach a “social gospel” that may address society’s ills but is very little gospel. Others preach the gospel, but do very little to help others. Where’s the balance?

By Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola

November 8, 2010 — Jesus Christ has never been a social activist or a moral philosopher. To pitch Him that way is to drain His glory and dilute His excellence. While justice is important, justice apart from Christ is a dead thing.

The only battering ram that can storm the gates of hell is not the cry of justice, but the name of Jesus. Jesus Christ is the embodiment of justice, peace, holiness, righteousness and every other virtue.

When Jesus becomes an abstraction, faith loses its reproductive power. Some have made Jesus the chaplain of the American dream. Others have made Him the chaplain of the Democratic Party. Still others have made Jesus the chaplain of capitalism and Republicanism. All are equally blasphemous.

Some today teach that the kingdom of God is a political utopia taught by Jesus that we Christians are charged to bring about. This is essentially the old-fashioned “social gospel.” Those who hold this view are still caught up in the old “fundamentalist individual gospel” versus “social gospel” dichotomy. Advocates think that the only way to talk about social justice is to do it in social gospel terms.

We do not reject Jesus, or justice, or the kingdom. But we reject the notion that you can take the justice side of Christ and push it into a separate theme on its own.

Origen said that Jesus is the autobasilia. He is, in Himself, the kingdom. Jesus’ own person and work are the establishing of a new humanity—a new social form of existence. In Him, we find the kingdom of God. In Him, we find what freedom and equality genuinely mean.

Practically speaking, the church (when she is functioning properly) is the new society that Jesus is creating. Christ and the church cannot be separated.

A good definition of the kingdom of God is as follows: the manifestation of God’s ruling presence. “The kingdom of God is in your midst,” Jesus said (see Luke 17:21, NASB). In other words, Jesus was saying, “I’m standing here in your midst. I am the kingdom incarnated. Not only in what I do, but in who I am.”

The kingdom of God is made visible when the community of the King embodies justice, peace, and love together, and then shares it with the world. The church, therefore, is the embodiment and instrument for displaying the kingdom of God.

We must never avoid social issues. But the distinctive mark of a Christian is that you don’t begin with a social or moral issue. You begin with God. You start with God’s revelation in Jesus, and the relationship of justifying/sanctifying/glorifying grace that the “heir of all things” releases in all of us.

You make the Light of the World, not culture, your reference point. Our time should be spent figuring out our relationship to Jesus, and what He is doing in the world. Why? So we can join Him in what He’s already doing.

If we start anywhere else but Christ, we lose our way. If we start with the social and political as our reference point, the “social gospel” becomes very much “social” and very little “gospel.” In truth there is no “gospel” that is not a “social gospel.”

For example, when we reach out to the poor and sick, we are not doing so because of some principle of justice, or some theology of poverty and sickness, or some political platform or legislation, or some responsible way of dealing with surplus wealth. We do so for three reasons:
The deepest hungers of the human heart are for forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
We are reaching out to Jesus Himself (see Matt. 25:36). In the poor and sick, it is Christ whom we attend, feed and love. Followers of Jesus exist for others, not for themselves.

The life of Christ within us compels us to reach out to such. The Galilean prophet who healed the sick and cared for the poor continues His ministry in and through us today.

This reframing of “the poor” was one of the greatest contributions of Christianity. The pagan world called poor people “base and shady.” The Christians called them “sisters and brothers,” and identified them with Christ.

The “needy” and “afflicted” received more than alms; they also received prayer, affection and relationship. The poor were not a political problem. The poor were “us” not “them.” Care of the poor is a matter of orthodox faith.

The story of redemption is where we begin talking about moral and social issues. Of course, it is one thing to get the meaning of what Jesus said and did; it is another thing to start meaning it. Meaning is meaningless until and unless you start “meaning it.”

But “meaning it” means something other than politicization. The pressure on the church to “pietize” politics and mumble polite noises in political directions will only get stronger. What happens when these siren songs are heeded is evident in any reading of the history of the church, where the worst in the history of politics is on display. The perversion of the best yields the worst.

It is a Christian’s fatal conceit to think he can bring in the kingdom. A careful reading of the Scriptures reveals that the kingdom is not something that we bring, or build, or cause, or create. The kingdom is a presence that we enter, a gemlike gift that we receive and treasure, a new creation that engulfs and embraces us.

In other words, the kingdom of God is Jesus the Christ, and His righteousness. In seeking Him, “all these things [are] added” in our lives (see Matt. 6:33).

Monday, November 08, 2010

Thanksulness 2010 My BED!

Not much time to post tonight. We just returned from a trip to Tennessee where I officiated at the wedding of a young woman who used to be part of my congregation. She and the groom are stationioned at Youth With a Mission, Nashville, TN. It was a good trip, but a long one, and after several days away I am aware of how lovely it is to be able to come home to one's own bed. Ahhh....good night.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 My Sisters

How do people make it through life without a sister? ~Sara Corpening

Having a sister is like having a best friend you can't get rid of. You know whatever you do, they'll still be there. ~Amy Li

A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. ~Marion C. Garretty

Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister? ~Alice Walker

If you don't understand how a woman could both love her sister dearly and want to wring her neck at the same time, then you were probably an only child. ~Linda Sunshine

You can kid the world. But not your sister. ~Charlotte Gray

I am the youngest of three daughters. The eldest sister, Darlaine, died much too soon from early-onset Alzheimer's disease. She is pictured on the left above, with our mom in the middle of the love seat and my sister's son and granddaughter behind us. It was a bittersweet visit a few years ago. She loved me unconditionally and I miss her so much.

The middle sister, Paulette, is on the left next to our late aunt Pauline. We are smiling, but it was a sad time. We were in Texas and on the way to my mother's home town to attend her funeral. Paulette lives much too far away from me, and I think of her almost every day, wishing we could share a cup of tea and a chat.

My two sister were very different from one another. Darlaine was the quiet bookworm and Paulette was (is) the outgoing one who liked being active. I am a mix of the two! How glad I am to have had them in my life.

Paulette, I love you and thank God for you!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 #4 My Church Family

Psalm 35:18 I will give you thanks in the great assembly; among the throngs I will praise you.

Thanking God today for my church: friends and family, music and prayers and sermons and reminders that there is more to life than just what I can see.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 My Husband

As I mentioned a few posts ago, October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Every time I read statistics of the violence--whether it is physical, emotional, sexual or verbal (or all of them) I find myself feeling renewed gratitude for my dear husband of nearly forty years.

Today he is travelling with me to Tennessee so I can officiate at the marriage ceremony of a very special young woman and her fiancee. It will be nice to spend time together, even if it is in the van heading down the highway.

I will never forget the day I met him, nor the day I married him, and I will be forever grateful for a man who has stood by my side through many challenges and changes. Sometimes, come to think of it, he has stood a little ahead and beckoned me onward, and sometimes he has stood behind me and pushed a little. But he has always hoped, believed, trusted, and loved.

If you are a pastor or church professional who would like to know more about what we can do to help those in our pews who are abused, I recommend you take a look at this blog post.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 Water

Psalm 65:8-10
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders;
where morning dawns, where evening fades,
you call forth songs of joy.
You care for the land and water it;
you enrich it abundantly.
The streams of God are filled with water
to provide the people with grain,
for so you have ordained it.
You drench its furrows and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers and bless its crops.

We are currently experiencing problems with our hot water heater. A day or so ago I was feeling irritable because I came in from leaf raking looking forward to a long, hot shower and such was not to be. How fortunate am I to expect that when I turn on a tap I can have instant water? Not only instant water, but HOT water? According to one report, 884 million people lack access to safe water supplies; this is approximately one in eight people. Some put the number even higher.

I am thankful for an abundant and clean water supply.

Want to help someone who is not so fortunate? Here is one way.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 God is Good

1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.

Today I'm thankful for God's goodness. It is displayed all around me, if I only take time to notice. It is in the sunrise, the honking geese who are about to migrate, the warmth of a fire, the smile of a friend, a good-night kiss from little Trinity.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 # 2 Voting

1 Timothy 2:1-3a I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior...

I love to vote. I may not love the ads and phone calls and emails leading up to voting day, but I love the process itself.
I know I am one very small piece of the whole of this nation, but when I stand in a voting booth and mark my ballot, I always feel oddly powerful and very grateful for the place I live. It is wonderful to see people entering the polling place, talking with neighbors, doing their civic duty and exercising a right so many would LOVE TO HAVE and DO NOT!

How can we take it so lightly that a good turnout is only half of us? No police are needed, no guns slung over shoulders, no glares, no intimidation. Just people voting. I am so thankful for the privilege!

Monday, November 01, 2010

Thankfulness 2010 #1 Singing

Yesterday I went shopping. I'm not a person who loves to shop, so it has been a while since I've set foot in a retail establishment (other than the grocery store or one of the "big box stores)." So I was surprised to find Christmas decorations. Can we please finish fall before we rush headlong into Christmas?

Here in Wisconsin we have enjoyed a splendid fall season (certainly not always the case) with glorious sunny days. Now, the fall colors have faded, for the most part, and the fields are empty. Most of the trees are bare. It is November already!

I have been looking at old posts, perhaps because fall always makes me nostalgic. I read about my mother's failing memory, shedding a few tears as I read what I wrote on the Sunday morning she approached me at church looking distraught and admitting that she didn't know where to go, what to do, and couldn't remember anyone's name. I read about a trip to Washington, spending time with my dear sister who was suffering with Alzheimers and how hard it was to realize she didn't really know me--and then read about a later California trip to their time-share condo by the sea where she wasn't with us. She was in a group home.

I read about my sabbatical--a wonderful yet stressful time as I began to face facts--and then I read about my difficult resignation from my church pastorate of ten years.

Last year at this time I had just met up with my brother-in-law Larry and his new wife. I posted about how strange it was to see Larry with someone other than my late sister, Darlaine. Now Larry is gone as well. I'm so glad that I was not aware he actually had only weeks to live.

I see that quite a few of my posts for the last few years have been about difficult times....and life is what it is. However, as I said, it is November. Almost Thanksgiving. And, as is always the case living here where seasons are pronounced, the changing scene outside the window makes me deeply aware of life passages. I've decided to spend some deliberate time this month in being thankful. Each day I'll post something--at least that's the plan. Care to join me? Feel free to comment, or to link to a post on your own blog.

Today I am thankful for the opportunity to sing in a wonderful choir with a wonderful director. Singing comes naturally to me, but it has been a long time since I did it in any sort of formal way. It is good to sing with others, to polish things, to hear the progress from week to week. I'm happy that soon the sounds of gospel will be shared with our community. Great music, great people, great to have a voice to raise in song!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sounds of Gospel

For my friends who live in the area, this is going to be good! I'm singing in the choir. No, that's not why it is going to be good...well...not totally. :-) It's a worthwhile cause and a great evening with LOTS of music!

SOUNDS OF GOSPEL...with Christmas Spirit
November 11, 12 & 13
7:oo pm Performance (Doors open at 6:30)
First Congregational UCC
Hwy 67 South, Plymouth, WI 53073
Appetizers and Intermission Dessert
Tickets -- $25
For tickets, call 920-207-SONG (7664)
Supporting the Sheboygan County Food Bank
Honored to be sponsored by: Plymouth Foam Foundation
An Evening of Thanks and Giving!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Clergy Appreciation Month

I'm reposting this, with a few changes, from a few years ago. Still good suggestions!

October is Clergy Appreciation Month. Have you done something for the pastors/ministers in your life to let them know you value their ministry? There are some great ideas here from the Pastor's Retreat Network. Pastors and other clergy are not supermen (or superwoman). They are sometimes expected to do it all, do it all well, do it all well without complaining. Like everyone else, clergy folks usually do better in an atmosphere of appreciation and care. Here are some ideas.


1 Write a note of apreciation.

2 Pray for your pastor regularly.

3 Stop the rumor mill.

4 Invite him or her out to lunch, golfing, or some other shared interest, without an agenda.

5 Offer to babysit the kids (or dog sit, or sit with an elderly mom or dad--whatever necessary) so pastor and spouse can have an evening together; even better, offer them a gift certificate to a restaurant they enjoy.

6 Honor his or her day off – allow time for rest, personal renewal and family time.

7 In times of loss, offer sympathy, care and practical help.

8 Consider holidays and other family days – if the pastor is far from their family of origin, invite them to your celebration – no strings attached.

9 Ask how you can help and then follow through.

10 Tell him or her what you’ve learned from their sermon.

11 Go to for ideas on how to celebrate your minister during Pastor Appreciation Month.

12 Consider a sabbatical time for your pastor and find a way to provide one as needed.

Pastors Retreat Network provides pastors and their spouses with a five-day, self-directed retreat experience that is free of charge. It is a time to rest, spiritually renew, and reconnect with God and spouse. Consider how an experience like this might benefit your minister. For more information, please visit --

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Month. I usually write something, but this year I'm posting a link to a post I wrote four years ago, "Remembering a Dancer."

I will never forget her. I will also never forget the young pastor who made what was quite possibley a fatal error. Not for himself, for her.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Friendship Friday Five

Songbird offers today's Friday Five.

1) Who is the first friend you remember from childhood?
Jackie Wilhout. I have a picture of the two of us somewhere. Such a cute pic that if I had a little more time on this busy day I'd hunt it up and scan it. But I'm posting between errands as it is. Jackie was four and I was five, and we both loved the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans TV duo. So he was Roy, and I was Dale, and we called each other that and played cowboys all the time. He was a sweet kid with an amazing head of blond curls.

2) Have you ever received an unexpected gift from a friend?
Those are the best kinds to receive, don't you think? Hmmm...I think I should be giving my friends more unexpected gifts, come to think of it!

3) Is there an old friend you wish you could find again? Or have you found one via social media or the Internet?
Ah, Facebook has been fun for connecting with friends from high school! There are many friends I have lost touch with over the years. One is George, a next-door neighbor that was a good friend for a long time. He was abused (I know looking back) and life was hard but he was a kind and gentle boy. I've always wondered how life ended up for him. And there are far too many friends I wish I could find and probably never will..
4) Do you like to get your good friends together in a group, or do you prefer your friends one on one?
5) Does the idea of Jesus as a friend resonate with you?
Yes...he is the ultimate friend...but also much more than any earthly friend could be.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Christians and Bullying: Standing with Gays and Lesbians

The following is excerpted from an article by Jim Wallis of Sojourners. I was writing about this issue, and JW said it better than I.

My mother used to give us kids two instructions:

1. If there is a kid on the playground that nobody else is playing with -- you play with them.
2. If there is a bully picking on other kids -- you be the one to stand up to him or her.

Those two principles have served me well .

On Wednesday, I wore purple. I was speaking at North Park University, an evangelical Christian college, with Tim King, my colleague and a former student there. I was pleased to see them passing out purple ribbons and announcing why just before chapel. So I joined thousands of others across the country who believe that bullying should never be tolerated at any time, at any place, or for any reason.

I wore purple... in memory of the many young people who have taken their own lives as a result of harassment and bullying inflicted on them because they are gay. I wore purple because I am a follower of Christ. A bully is a person who habitually intimidates, harasses, or commits violence against those who are smaller, weaker, or more vulnerable because of their "outsider" status. A bully stands in opposition to all of what Christ taught and lived...the stories of young kids being so bullied that they take their own lives has been heartbreaking to hear...

Most bullies don't know that they are bullies. A bully might think that his or her words don't matter that much or affect others that greatly. A bully might think that he or she is being funny or just kidding around. A bully might think that he or she is just saying what everyone is thinking or speaking out about what everyone thinks.

There is disagreement within the Christian community when it comes to issues of human sexuality. But, there should be a united front against all who would disrespect, disparage, or denigrate anyone created in the image of God.

I hope you will join me in prayer for the family and friends of every young person who has taken their own lives. I hope you will join me in a message of hope for any person who has been teased, harassed, or bullied by another because of his or her sexual orientation. More than that, no matter what your views of homosexuality are, I hope you will join with me in standing in the way between bullies and their victims.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Connecting Friday Five

Over at Rev Gal Blog Pals, Jan says, "I am currently reading Bowling Alone by Robert D. Putnam, where he explores the changes in community in the USA in the 20th Century. He explains how communities, people, and especially children function better when they live where there is high social capital. Basically, it means that "relationships matter."We all know this because Christianity (and other religions) emphasize the Golden Rule: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. Matthew 7:1

So here are some questions to ponder for this Friday Five about connecting with:

1. Self: Who was your hero/heroine when you were about ten years old?

I had two. One was Helen Keller. I was reading the story of her life, and as a kid with some physical challenges she made me realize that just about anything could be faced and overcome, especially with someone to help you (like her Teacher, Anne Sullivan). The other was Lottie Moon. Southern Baptist that I was, I did not see women in any sort of ministry role, nor would it have occurred to me that such might ever be the case. But Lottie Moon was a herione to Southern Baptists (I certainly hope she still is). She was a beautiful woman who gave up a fiancee and a life of relative comfort to go off to China. Amazing woman. Another person, come to think of it, who modeled great perserverence in the face of adversity.

2. Family: Who are you most like? Who is most like you?

I don't know...I'm sort of a mix of my two sisters. My late sis, Darlaine, was the reader, more of an introvert. Paulette, the middle sis, was more outgoing. I am a sometimes slightly mixed up and confused version of both of them, I think. According to Paulette, Trinity is like me. I think she may be right. Loves words, music, and there are other similiaries too. :-)

3. Friends: How do you stay in touch?

Phone, letters, emails, Facebook (if you call that staying in touch), and sometimes I do not do a very good job of this. I need to find better ways not to lose track of important people in my life.

4. Neighborhood, community: What are ways you like to be involved?

Hmmm...I admit, living in the town where I was formerly a pastor tends to make me NOT be involved. I go to work in another town, and I am pretty much keeping to myself these days. Not so good, maybe? In general, I like ecumenical gatherings and efforts, parades, community fun times (think Martha and the Vandellas "Dancing in the Streets") and such like.

5. Job/church: Do you see a need that will help in developing connections?

Yes. And I can't share about it right now. Maybe later!

Bonus: A link or anything else about connecting

Here is a song I dearly love. We used to sing the chorus when I was pastoring at Jubilee. Hope you like it too.

Friday, October 08, 2010

An Autumn Word Association Friday Five

The picture is Ken and Trinity about a year ago.

Hello everyone! This morning I drove down the road that is pictured in my blog header. It looks just like that right now. The Canadian geese are excited, forming up and practicing, encouraging each other with honking, the Wisconsin fall color is at peak where I am, and in Kohl's Dept. Store the Christmas decorations are up. Yep, Fall is here. It's my turn to do the Rev Gal Blog Pals Friday Five. It has been a while since we did one of these word association Friday FIves, so here goes, with an autumnal theme. I know, fall is one way on this side of the world and different in other places, but please bear with me as I post words that say FALL--at least where I am.

Give us the the first word that comes to mind (you know how that works, right?) and then add a little something about why, or how or what.

1. Pumpkins
Jack O' Lanterns.
I have five in an artfully placed pile in my yard, alongside a scarecrow and two pots of mums. At least one will soon be carved into a smiley, or scary, face.

2. Campfire
The best thing about a campfire is the aroma. It takes me back to good times camping as a kid, youth gatherings on the beach (I grew up in California) and other good memories. So evocative!

3. Apple
Yum...harvest time for apples is here and the stores, and farmers markets will be well stocked. Nothing better than apple pie to say all is well with the world!

4. Color
Right now they are glorious. Growing up in CA we didn't really have much of a fall, and certainly not the glorious foliage that is part of fall in Wisconsin. Fabulous and breathtaking.

5. Halloween
Trinity is planning her ladybug costume, and she (Trinity is my three year old grandchild) is making this time of year a hoot once again. Gotta love kids and costumes and candy and pumpkins and stuff!
And since it is REV Gals and their Pals, here is the bonus question, sort of a serious one:

What does the following passage from Daniel 2 make you think about?

"Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
Wisdom and power are his...
He changes times and seasons."

I feel change in the air. I love fall for that. I will soon be taking a small retreat to explore a bit of those changing times and seasons in my own life. I'll let you know if anything of import results. Have a wonderful fall! For those of you in my part of the world--YOU KNOW WHAT IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!